New clinical trials using immunotherapy to treat patients with blood cancer has shown ‘extraordinary’ results, according to researchers. The technique involves taking T-cells from the patient, tagging these with ‘receptor’ molecules to target the cancer and then putting them back into the patient's body.
In one small study of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia who had not responded to other treatments, 94% saw their symptoms disappear completely. This study was presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting.
In response, Professor Peter Openshaw, President of the British Society for Immunology, said:
“The reported findings on the effect of engineered T-cells in targeting blood cancer cells are very exciting. The full publication is awaited, but this could potentially represent an amazing breakthrough in our ability to treat these devastating conditions. So far, the reports are only of a small number of patients with late stage disease. Now we need confirmation of these findings and larger, well-controlled and peer-reviewed studies.
"Immunotherapy in all its forms is now taking great strides forward and starting to deliver huge insights and potentially life-changing therapies. These results give the first indication that the treatment of blood cancers (and perhaps other cancers too) could be revolutionised, with immunotherapy rather than chemotherapy being the first line of treatment. This approach may well work in some other ‘hard-to-treat’ cancers, but it’s too early to claim that this will be a panacea for cancer in all its forms. It’s an exciting time for all those working in immunology to see cutting-edge research apparently bringing such great results.”
Image credit: NIAID